In true “Jenny” fashion, I rebelliously struggled trying to figure out what I would write about for my WISA post. I have always proclaimed myself to be a “deadline for a reason” type of person. So, even when I had a post nearly complete (in advance!), an idea that felt more true to who I am popped in my head while I was driving into work the day prior to my deadline. It felt like not just the right thing to say but, most importantly, it felt like me. So, here it is: I’m not good at making friends with or building professional relationships with women. Yes, I just said that in a WOMEN IN STUDENT AFFAIRS blog posting. It’s always been this way – and, frankly, I’m not sure why. However, I have always found it easier to connect with men. I’m not a tomboy or really that into sports (well, except any sport related to Michigan State)–I just find men easier to approach, to ask for a favor or help, go to for advice, and have found them to be the individuals I can most count on. Also, I feel less-judged by men…and less competitive towards them.
If you look at the things I’ve done, the positions I’ve held, and professional involvements I’ve been a part of, I think you would expect me to be someone surrounded with a strong network of women; however, that’s just not the case. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big supporter of women and I enjoy having close women friends and colleagues; I just find it much harder to make and maintain these connections. I truly value being a part of the WISA community and for the few close relationships I do have with women. Opportunities such as writing for the WISA blog project and co-hosting the IV-E drive in conference have helped further that appreciation—and the confidence I feel in who I am as a woman in higher education/student affairs.
Not having a strong network of women has always been something that has made me feel as if I was missing out on, or doing something wrong…that I wasn’t doing enough to advance my career, or that I wasn’t being a good role model. I have felt pressure for many years to have a strong network of women around me and to find women mentors. So, due to the pressure, I tried many times to create relationships with women who I believed I could emulate, but it always felt forced, and I was never able to make a strong enough connection that lasted beyond a certain length of time. I can remember a time where I was so consumed with the pressure to relate to women, I even neglected my relationships with male colleagues, simply to try and make myself appear to be more united with my female collages. However, it’s like we teach our students—when something isn’t right, it just doesn’t feel right.
Currently, my work environment is completely dominated by women. As an academic advisor for a teacher education, this is somewhat expected. I have women in leadership and role model positions all around me and at my level as well. What I thought might be a perfect opportunity to really expand my network of strong women, instead, I find myself relating most closely with just one woman in my office, a woman who it seems similarly connects more easily with men. We seem to have bonded over this commonality. In times where I need advice or support, I often find myself seeking out our male director. Again, I’m finding those conversations feeling very natural, opposed to times when I’ve tried to seek women out. When engaging with men, I don’t feel the need to put my defenses up, that I have to tread lightly or be careful with my words…exhausting. Instead, the ability to just be myself is refreshing. What I’ve come to learn, through trial and error, is that it’s okay to be “one of the guys.” I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t make me any less of a role model, or any less of a woman. The relationships I’ve built, with men and with women, have aided me in becoming the person and professional I am today—and I am grateful for that.